Sulawesi is one of the five main islands of Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago with more than 17,000 islands spanning over 5,000km (3,200 miles) eastward from northern Sumatra. Formerly named Celebes, Sulawesi sprawls in the center of the country. The very bizarre shape of the island is its character, with an incredible diversity of people, cultures and landscapes spread across its length and breadth.
Nowhere in Sulawesi is much more than 100km from the sea, though an almost complete covering of mountains isolated its four separate peninsulas from one another, and made them difficult to penetrate individually. The strange outline resulted in a delightful pot pouring of people and numerous natural and cultural attractions, including such diverse draws as ancient megaliths, bug-eyed tarsiers and stunning sceneries of volcanoes and rice fields.
North Sulawesi and Manado
Manado is the capital of North Sulawesi, a land of coconut plantations, rice fields, mountains and volcanoes. But the region’s real treasures are harbored in its waters! As one of the main entry points of the Indonesian Throughflow – a phenomenal current, extremely rich in nutrients, that flows from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean – North Sulawesi has developed a well deserved reputation as one of the world’s epicenters of biodiversity.
Manado is consistently ranked among the best dive locations. The 89ha (97% of which is water!!!) of the Bunaken National Marine Park feature pristine waters with corals, fish life in huge concentrations, and frequent pelagic encounters. Just 90 minutes away, the most bizarre and very rare critters can be spotted in Lembeh Strait, the world Mecca for critter and muck diving!
The total transfer time from Manado airport to your resort takes less than 30 minutes.
Manado Bay's and Bunaken Marine National Park’s 30+ dive sites range in depth from 10 to 40 meters (33 to 131ft). Diving is conducted all year round, with optimum conditions during the dry season (April to October). The visibility is usually between 15 and 40m (50 and 131ft), with an average of 20+m (66ft).
Most dive sites are accessible to Padi Open Water divers (or equivalent). There is no need to go deep to see plenty of fishes and amazing, colorful corals. Advanced divers will enjoy other sites, with reasonable to strong currents, and the WWII wreck.
Bunaken and its four neighboring islands primarily offer impressive vertical walls and stunning coral gardens, with frequent pelagic visitors, all in pristine waters! Over 1,000 species of reef fishes and 70 species of corals populate the area, including barracudas, trevallies, groupers, snappers, gorgonians, huge sponges, and hard and soft corals. Common encounters include turtles, white and black-tip sharks, bumphead parrot-fishes, napoleon wrasses, and eagle rays for the big fishes, oran-utang and candy crabs, pygmy seahorses and squat lobsters for macro life. The shallows are unbelievably colorful and teeming with life
Manado Bay offers sloping coral walls, rich with reef fishes, nudibranchs, ribbon eels and unusual green tree corals, to sandy bottom environments. There are many excellent sites for muck-diving, with giant frog-fishes, ghost pipe-fishes, seahorses, mimic octopus, and Spanish dancers that will spoil u/w photographers and macro fans. Not to mention the 60m long WWII shipwreck… Last, but not least, dolphins and pilot whales are frequently seen on the surface, especially during the dry season, and the lucky ones might even sight migrating humpback, sperm and minke whales
- Just 1.5 hour away from Manado is Lembeh Strait, the world Mecca for critter and muck diving. Day-trips to Lembeh are organized regularly, and for those who have not yet experienced muck diving, we strongly recommend to give it a try!
Some of the Most Famous Dive Sites
Lekouan (1, 2 and 3):
This steep wall is covered with corals and offers good chances to encounter massive turtles, bumphead parrot-fishes, and occasionally reef sharks, tunas, and barracudas. Whether you are on section 1, 2 or 3 of the drop-off, your dive will end up on an amazing coral garden teeming with colorful reef fishes. Also excellent for a night dive and for snorkeling.
This 60 meter long WWII wreck is located in the Manado Bay and lies at a depth of about 25-40 m. It is covered with colorful corals and plays host to several leaf and scorpion-fishes and nudibranchs. The dive ends on a sandy slope where you can find pipe-fishes and their ghost cousins, shrimps, ribbon, garden and moray eels, and crocodile-fishes.
Contrary to most dive sites of Bunaken, Fukui Point is not a wall, but rather a slope, covered with all kinds of corals. Impressive scenery combined with excellent visibility literally make you feel you are diving in a giant aquarium. Here you can find many schools of various reef fishes (red-tooth triggerfishes, bat-fishes, etc…) and lots of macro species, including squat lobsters, shrimps etc…
Please note that, although our partner on Manado is strongly committed to dive safety and affiliated to international diving organizations, some of their dive guides are not certified divemasters. They are all PADI Advanced Open Water Divers (or equivalent) with thousands of dives in North Sulawesi, and trained in emergency response as well as basic first aid and CPR. This is due to two main reasons:
- the cost of a Divemaster certification compared to local salaries and standard of living
- dive guides’ English is not always sufficient to fully understand instruction manuals, which are currently not printed in Indonesian
Odyssea Divers, a Padi and SSI dive center, is located right on Cocotinos Resort’s beach, less than 1 minute walk away from all accommodations.
Odyssea Divers operate 3 custom-built wooden boats powered by 280hp Hyundai, twin-85hp and 4*40hp Yamaha engines, all equipped with built-in toilets and a changing room, and fitted with first-aid kits and medical oxygen. A rigid inflatable boat is also available for smaller groups to quickly get to the house reefs around the resort. In addition, the dive center features a large camera room with both 110 and 220 voltage charging facilities and compressed air nozzles.
3 boat dives are organized during daytime, as well as mandarin/night dives every day. For your own safety, your first dive will be an orientation dive. This is to ensure that the dive center knows your abilities and can put similar experienced divers together in a group. The maximum ratio of divers on a dive guide is 4.
Technical and Admin Information
- rental equipment: Scubapro regulators and BCDs, “house brand” wetsuits, Uwatec (Tec2G and Aladin Pro) and Oceanic (Veo 180Nx) dive computers
- 11.2 and 5.6 liter aluminum tanks (international and DIN cylinder valves, DIN adaptors available), weights and weight belts are provided
- night/mandarin dives possible every night, Toshiba torches can be rented
- Nitrox (32) and Trimix available, as well as twin-tank sets
- logbook - dive certification card
- medical clearance for scuba diving from a physician, issued within the last 12 months
- evidence of repatriation insurance
- no need to bring gloves, as the dive center applies a no-glove policy
Recommended diving equipment and documents: 3 or 5mm wetsuits, torch, dive computer, magnifying glass, safety sausage, insurance covering dive-related injuries (DAN or equivalent)
The closest hyperbaric chamber is located in Manado, all dives are within no-decompression limits.
Other Activities and the Kids' Corner
A typical day for a diver in Manado goes as follows:
- 2 dives, from 8:30 AM till 1:00 PM
- lunch at the resort and third dive possible at around 3:00 PM
- 3 dives, from 8:30 AM till 3 to 4:00 with a surface interval of at least one hour and lunch on the boat
- mandarin or night dive possible every day
Activities for non-divers and for divers’ dry days are the following:
- Manado-Bunaken offers truly exceptional snorkeling experiences
- Minahasa highland tour: a full-day journey to discover local villages and markets, as well as tunnels and caves built by Japanese during WWII. The scenic area of Tondano Lake, with its surrounding rice fields, and Linow Lake where colors are constantly changing depending on light and viewing angle are also explored.
- Tangkoko Batuangus Nature Reserve: a full-day excursion where you will get a chance to observe Black Crested Macaques, Tarsiers (the world’s smallest monkey), deer, birds and wild pigs in their natural habitat.
- Volcano trekking: a full-day excursion to enjoy panoramic views, observe solidified lava, experience the smell of yellow sulfur and approach the steaming lake at the bottom of the crater. The tour also takes you to Tondano and Linow lakes.
- Manado City Tour: this ½ day tour will bring you to the Second World War Memorial Monument, Ban Hiong Kiong Chinese Temple, the Boulevard Road with its food vendors and shopping area etc...
- Golf at Wenang (Manado) 9-hole golf course, where clubs and caddies are available for hire
- Relaxing and enjoying a massage at the resort’s spa
- Whitewater Rafting
- River Crabbing
- Horse-back riding
Please note that baby sitting is not available at Cocotinos resort.
Cocotinos is located within Wori Bay, in the heart of a fishing village overlooking the Bunaken National Marine Park, only 25 minutes away from Manado airport and 1.5 hour away from Lembeh Straits. Cocotinos Manado was awarded the Excellence in Service Award 2009 by Scuba Diver Australasia (issue 8/2009, Best Value Destinations).
The resort is nestled on a chocolate-colored sandy beach, and features 22 accommodations all boasting twin or kind-size beds, en-suite bathroom with separate shower (with hot water) and WC, A/C, fan, and a safe-deposit box. Towels are provided, rooms are serviced daily.
The 12 Garden Rooms feature spacious balconies with direct or indirect views of the sea and a day bed. The 8 Water’s Edge Rooms have extra deep sea-view balconies also with a day bed, and a long bathtub in the bathroom. The 2 Suites are on the upper level, and feature a balcony with stunning views of the sea next to a sea-view open shower with round bath, a bedroom and a living room with cable TV and audio system.
The bar & restaurant is located next the swimming pool and serves Asian and Western food, both à la carte and buffet style. The resort also boasts a nice spa with an A/C and an open-air treatment room, and provides a large variety of massages. Satellite TV and Wi-Fi internet access are available in the restaurant.
Required and Recommended Equipment and Documents
In addition to your documents related to your repatriation insurance (and for divers: your logbook, dive certification card and a medical clearance for scuba diving), you will need:
- your passport, which must be valid for a minimum of six months beyond intended date of entry into Indonesia
- a visa, which, for nationals of most countries, can be purchased on arrival. Please make sure you have one entire blank page for the placement of your visa (we made the mistake and paid the price...)
At the time of research (you may double-check with your local Indonesian Embassy for updates to the visa policy):
- nationals of the following 11 countries and territories were eligible for a "Visa Free" facility for a visit of up to 30 days: Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Morocco, Chile and Peru.
- nationals of the following countries and territories could obtain a “Visa On Arrival” processed at the gate of entry following the payment of a USD 25 (for a 30 day visa): Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Laos, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Maldives, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Netherland, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Panama, People's Republic of China, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Surinam, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America.
Citizens of countries not included in the above lists must apply for a visa overseas before arriving in Indonesia.
The visa on arrival facility will only be available at the following international airports: Medan, Pekanbaru, Padang, Soekarno-Hatta (Jakarta), Halim Perdana Kusuma (Jakarta), Surabaya, Bali, Manado, Yogyakarta, Solo, Mataram (Lombok), Balikpapan, Makassar, Kupang.
We also recommend you bring with you:
- sun cream
- mosquito repellent
How to get there / Flight information
The only ways to reach Manado are:
- via Singapore, flying SilkAir, Singapore Airlines' regional airline. SilkAir operates from Singapore to Manado every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday
- via Jakarta and some of Indonesia's main cities. Daily flights operate from Jakarta to Manado with various airlines, including Garuda Indonesia, LionAir and Batavia Air
We can assist you in booking your flight if your city of departure is in China through some of our partners. Please contact us if you need assistance.
Once you get to Manado airport, our local partner will be waiting for you. From there, it takes less than 30 minutes to reach the resort.
Health and Safety
No vaccination is required to enter Indonesia. The only vaccine required by international regulations is yellow fever. Proof of vaccination will only be required if you have visited a country in the yellow-fever zone within the six days prior to entering Southeast Asia.
Travelers to Southeast Asia should be up to date with vaccinations against polio, tetanus and diphtheria. You may also consider a hepatitis A shot.
The risk of contracting malaria is low in most parts of North Sulawesi. If you plan to travel overland throughout the region and in other provinces of Sulawesi, the risk is significantly higher and you may see a physician for further advice and precautions. There are also cases of dengue fever. The best solution is to not get bitten: always have insect repellant (those purchased in pharmacies are usually the most efficient) and wear clothes with long sleeves during evenings.
Full medical insurance, including medical evacuation outside of your country of residence, is mandatory. We also recommend scuba divers to ensure their personal insurance covers dive related injuries. Should you consider becoming a member of DAN Asia-Pacific, please click here
North Sulawesi is usually safe and miles away from conflicts. In addition, Cocotinos is fairly remote and chances are you will spend most of your time within the resort’s facilities. However, the general rule of not showing off your wealth is advisable and usual travel precautions apply, such as restraining your urge to go wandering around seedy areas alone late at night and not leaving valuables or important documents unattended.
History and Culture
Due to Sulawesi’s strange shape, with four separate peninsulas isolated from one another by mountains, a very unique blend of cultures developed on the island. By the beginning of the 16th century, when the Portuguese and the Spaniards searching for spices arrived in Indonesia, Sulawesi was ethnically divided much as it is today. The south was split between the highland Torajans and the lowland Bugis, various tribes lived in the central region, and the Filipino-descendant Minahasans in the north. At this time, the sultanate of Ternate held some sway over North Sulawesi, which limited the European’ influence. Although they successfully propagated Christianity in Minahasa/North Sulawesi and Maluku, it was not until the arrival of the Dutch that Christianity became the predominant religion of North Sulawesi.
By the early 17th century, the Batavian had toppled the Ternate sultanate, and colluded with Minahasan rulers to throw out their European competitors. In the 19th century, the Dutch brought the whole island under their thumb. They helped unite the linguistically diverse confederacy and their influence flourished as the Minahasans embraced the European goods and Christian religion. The Minahasans’ loyalty to the Dutch, their Christian religion and their geographic isolation from the rest of Indonesia led to a sense of being "different" from the other ethnic groups of the archipelago. The Japanese occupation of 1942-45 shattered the myth of Dutch superiority, as Batavia gave up its empire without a fight. Though initially welcomed as liberators, the Japanese gradually established themselves as harsh overlords. In 1949, after the Indonesian National Revolution against the returning Dutch, Sulawesi became part of the United States of Indonesia, which in 1950 became the Republic of Indonesia.
During the early years of independence some progress was made to improve social and economic conditions, and the Indonesian society became somewhat more egalitarian. But the degree of improvement fell far short of expectations and there was a general feeling that the central government was inefficient. In March 1957, the military leaders of Sulawesi launched a confrontation with demands for greater regional autonomy, more local development, a fairer share of revenue, assistance in suppressing the rebellion in Southern Sulawesi, and a cabinet of the central government. At least initially, what was called the "Permesta" rebellion was a reformist rather than a separatist movement. The North Sulawesi leaders were dissatisfied with the subsequent agreements and declared their own autonomous state of North Sulawesi in June 1957. Central government troops landed in North Sulawesi and the rebellion was put down in mid-1961. Central authority was enhanced at the expense of local autonomy. North Sulawesi prospered under President Soeharto, which took office in 1967. Many of the economic reforms sought by the Permesta rebels were implemented. The province has a tolerant, outward-looking culture and it will be interesting to see what the future holds after the implementation of Regional Autonomy, the very idea that Permesta fought for.
Country Facts and Practical Information
Climate: equatorial, with the wet season (less pronounced than in many other parts of Southeast Asia) from November to March, and the dry season from April to October. Temperatures vary by only a few degrees throughout the year 25C- 28C (78F- 82F). Cyclones and typhoons are absent in Indonesia.
Population: the 2000 census indicated a total population of 240 million, including 15 million in the provinces of Sulawesi
Language: the official language in Indonesia is Bahasa Indonesia. Sulawesi is complicated from a linguistic prospective, as approximately 80 languages are spoken. They all belong to the huge Austronesian family, which stretches from Madagascar to Easter Island. Important Malay dialects are still spoken in Manado and Makassar.
- Religions: the 2000 census indicated that 86% of the Indonesian population label themselves Muslim (primarily Sunnis), 9% Christian, 2% Hindu, and 3.4% "other or unspecified". Islam is the majority religion on Sulawesi, and there is a substantial minority of Christians (around 19%), primarily concentrated in North and Central Sulawesi. Though most people identify themselves as Muslims or Christians, they often subscribe to local beliefs and deities as well. Smaller communities of Buddhists and Hindus are also found on Sulawesi, usually among the Chinese, Balinese and Indian communities.
- Electricity: electric current is 220-240 V, 50 Hz, and uses the common European two round pins plugs and the two parallel flat pins with ground pin plugs
- Time difference: GMT +8 hours (excluding daylight saving time considerations)
- Telephone: international access codes 001 and 008, country code 62. Mobile phones can be used from the resort with roaming for international customers. Local prepaid SIM-Cards can also be purchased.
- Internet: it can be accessed from the resort
Currency: the official currency is the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR)
- ATM & cash: there are ATM machines in Manado. Credit cards are accepted. Money is easily changed at banks and official money changing offices.